Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, photographed in Whitehorse on July 25, is being criticized for not voting on gun control amendments that passed in the House of Commons this week. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

MP Larry Bagnell takes flak for not voting on gun control bill

Bill C-71 passed third reading at the House of Commons this week

A Conservative Party hopeful and a hunting association are calling out Yukon MP Larry Bagnell for withholding his vote on gun control amendments that passed the House of Commons this week.

Jonas Smith, Yukon’s recently-named Conservative candidate in the next federal election, criticized Bagnell for not taking a position on Bill C-71.

“We elect people to represent us and to make tough decisions for us and he did neither by skipping the vote,” Smith said.

There were 185 members of parliament in favour of the bill at third reading on Sept. 24; 79 voted no; 70 didn’t vote: and two MPs paired.

The legislation has been delivered to the Senate.

The Liberals say it is an attempt to temper gun violence across the country. Amendments include doing away with a five-year maximum on screening, which could mean much deeper background checks, and requiring that gun owners register their non-restricted firearms when transferring them. For the latter, businesses would keep tabs on “certain information related to the transfer,” according to the bill.

Bagnell told the News he refrained from voting after what he heard from Yukoners.

“I did stay away because this summer I talked to over 1,000 people, either phone or door-to-door, and a lot of them didn’t understand that it doesn’t hurt Yukon hunters and fishers, but there’s still a few people, for whatever reason, that were against the bill so I did this out of respect to reflect to them that I had heard their view,” he said.

Views that are against the bill, Bagnell said, include having to get approvals to transport restricted firearms to places other than the shooting range and that the RCMP determines which class guns fit into (parliament defines classifications). There are also some people, he continued, “who don’t like any legislation related to firearms.”

Bagnell said “we want to move it forward quickly before … we get more control on firearms, heavier controls that could inconvenience our hunters and trappers.”

Asked what those beefed up controls are, specifically, Bagnell said calls to ban semi-automatic weapons and storing guns away from the home.

“People use guns for protection,” he said. “A lot of hunters use semi-automatic weapons.”

Smith, a gun owner himself, didn’t mince words: he said Bagnell has a “weak excuse.”

“He didn’t show up to do his job,” he said. “Why is he getting paid?”

Smith said amendments to the bill are “useless.”

“It’s the Liberals going after law-abiding gun owners, who are the most vetted citizens in Canada. Licensed gun owners go through a daily criminal records check. To put greater restrictions on law-abiding citizens and then virtue signal that it’s going to reduce gang violence in big cities or the illegal use and criminal use of firearms and smuggling and whatnot I think is unacceptable,” he said.

Gord Zealand, executive director of Yukon Fish and Game Association, said he’s “disappointed” by Bagnell’s move or lack thereof.

“We would have expected (Bagnell) to show up and vote no,” he said. “It’s pretty simple. If he had voted no, it would have said he didn’t agree with the changes.”

Zealand said he disagrees with Bagnell’s assertion that the bill won’t hurt gun owners in the territory.

“(It) creates a whole bunch more red tape that doesn’t have to be there. Personally, we’re OK with the current situation,” he said.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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